Smyth looks to sell stake in €750m Ukrainian bank

Published on Sunday May 4th, 2008. By John Reynolds

FORMER First Active boss John Smyth is seeking to sell a stake in €750m Ukrainian bank Ukrgasbank.

After a bitter boardroom struggle saw Smyth being ousted from First Active when its shares plummeted in 1999, he walked away with a payoff of almost €1m.

Having reinvented himself, he now owns a small stake in Ukrgasbank, and is one of a growing number of Irish investors in eastern Europe.

“The bank is willing to speak to any potential investors in the short to medium term. The big attraction is that only about one in five Ukrainians have bank accounts and GDP growth was 7.5 per cent there last year, so there is plenty of potential for growth,” Smyth told the Sunday Independent.

Last year, the bank’s profits mushroomed by more than 200 per cent to €13.3m and this year it plans to make acquisitions in Moldova, Belarus and Georgia. Its majority shareholders include Vasily Gorbol, a mayoral candidate in Kiev.

Last year, Sweden’s Swedbank snapped up another of Ukraine’s banks, TAS, for €640m. By comparison, it is understood that Ukrgasbank could be worth about €750m when the value of its equity, loan book and €1.3bn of assets are taken into account, although Smyth declined to comment on this.

Earlier this year AIB was linked to a deal to buy 60 per cent of Ukrainian bank Rodovid, which is chaired by Ukrainian pole vaulting superstar and Olympic medal winner Sergey Bubka.

Smyth is also involved with a consortium who are building one of Hungary’s biggest commercial developments, a €250m office, commercial and retail centre on a 250-acre plot at Budapest’s Ferihegy airport.

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